Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Eli Lilly's (ELY:NYSE) Axiron Campaign Has Morphed Into A Customer Service Nightmare

One of the basic tenants of direct response marketing is to ship what a customer orders the moment they order it.  This requires that you have enough inventory on hand to do so.  Sounds simple doesn't it?  It isn't.

I've had to suspend all media because sales were so strong manufacturing couldn't keep up.  When a novice hears that you can't make your product fast enough they always say, "that's a nice problem to have."  Trust me, it's a nightmare.  Eli Lilly customers are in that nightmare right now and their outsourced inbound call center is suffering along with their new brand Axiron.  I waited in cue for 14 minutes yesterday, curious if they ever fixed their problem of printing co-pay cards.  I want to stress that we aren't making stuff in China and waiting for the boat to hit Long Beach, no in the case of Axiron someone in the chain of command couldn't get co-pay cards printed in time for all shipments of co-pay cards (probably after 12/26/12) with the new expiration date of December 30, 2013.  This is one of the worst things you can do in a product launch and it's probably good news for Pfizer's Andro Gel.

When the operator answered after 14 minutes in cue I could hear the frustration in her voice.  I was sympathetic and then confirmed after a few questions (asked with empathy) how bad the problem was.  She told me and it was a text book disaster.  Pissed off customers are calling and it's hurting the campaign.

Axiron has done a lot of things well in this launch but failed at the most important thing, they have proven an inability to convert the FREE trial customer into a permanent customer simply because they couldn't print up some plastic co pay cards that they knew were expiring on 12/31/12.  They have known about this for months and it will probably and rightfully so, end with a few people getting fired.  This is such a simple mistake that it's no longer funny, it's pitiful.

The CEO, John Lechleiter should be throwing chairs at people especially when they have done so many things well in their launch.  If Lechleiter doesn't know how to throw a chair he can call in Coach Bobby Knight for a quick lesson (just kidding Coach).

What's really sad is Eli Lilly will never know how many customers it lost because of this screw up.  They've also lost potential first call customers due to the length of being in cue by the inbound call center (this always leads to dropped calls).

I would have sent people a coupon for a dozen Cialis and an apology if I had come in while the mistake was in process.  I'm really surprised they couldn't get cards printed overnight.

This is a great lesson and case study for anyone doing a product launch.

Here's my advice...when you are responsible for a campaign don't trust anyone on your team EVER. Inspect every detail and get proof of every detail being done properly. Employees will always tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth to protect their job; vendors have to be managed also. Sadly, like employees they often lie to cover their mishaps.  If you want to get what you expect inspect...always.

The funny part of this story is the CEO of Lilly will probably make $30 million in 2013.  Drugs do have awesome margins and Axiron is a great drug.

If you ever have questions about direct marketing, DRTV, FACEBOOK CONNECT, Direct Mail or Google Display Network then follow and interact with me on Twitter https://twitter.com/BradRichdale and http://www.rocketstocks.tv

                                               written by Brad Richdale Author
                                              copyright 2013 all rights reserved